It is not uncommon for either recreational swimmers or athletes to swim in cold temperatures. However, this activity is not without its dangers. To get the most out of the experience, familiarize yourself with coldwater swimming safety.
The International Rowing Federation defines cold water as that which has a temperature of 68 degrees F or below. Such temperatures increase the body's cooling rate and the risks of cold shock, hypothermia or swimming failure.
Swimmers should carry a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) or life jacket in water temperatures of 50 degrees F or lower. Alternatively, they may swim in cold waters alongside a safety boat with a PFD or life jacket onboard.
Swimmers should stay close to the shore, whenever possible, and monitor their body continuously. Those who feel that they are beginning to shiver or that their muscles are cramping up should exit the water as soon as possible.
Swimmers can shield their bodies from the cold by wearing specialized gear. Garments such as full-length wetsuits insulate the body against heat loss.
Coldwater swimmers should avoid drinking beverages containing alcohol, which increases body heat loss, before swimming.